Shooting The Big Five: An African Photo Safari

On an African Safari with Micato

Big-game hunters once trekked to Africa on safari in pursuit of dangerous, hard-to-hunt game animals that became known as The Big Five: lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinoceroses, and leopards. These five animals were grouped together because they were among the most difficult animals to hunt on foot.

On an African Safari with Micato
On our African Safari with Micato

However, with increasing emphasis on conservation, tourists (like us) are now fortunate to “capture them” by shooting The Big Five on photo safaris. During our recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania with Micato Safaris, we were able to see The Big Five up close.


It is estimated that some 250 to 300 lions live in the Masai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya, one of the highest densities of the species found anywhere in Africa. Lions feed on zebra, buffalo and antelope and spend up to 20 hours a day at rest. While they are well camouflaged in the tall grasses, we saw more than one pride with their cubs.

Lion in Masai Mara
Lion at the Masai Mara

African Bush Elephants

The elephant is my favorite of The Big Five. Because my vision isn’t the greatest, they are the easiest to spot since some of them tower more than 10 feet tall with ample girth as well. You know they have been around when you see lopped off trees they’ve uprooted. This baby was part of a herd we spotted. His ears are flapped open to cool him. Sadly, park rangers need to be vigilant to spot poachers who kill them for their valuable tusks, which can fetch great sums on the open market.

Baby Elephant in Masai Mara
Baby Elephant at the Masai Mara

African Cape Buffalos

Because of their size and strength, the great white hunters considered the buffalo their most dangerous and formidable foe. It was common to spot them in large herds. They are vegetarians who graze for their food but are known to kill humans when they feel threatened. We spotted this one with the cutest little hitchhiker on his back.

African Cape Buffalo
African Cape Buffalo

Black Rhinoceroses

Because they are nearly extinct (considered critically endangered), we were only able to spot a group of rhinoceroses in a small plane. Fortunately, our Micato guide took us to an animal orphanage where we could see this one up close. Because of its size, it has no natural predators but it is often chased away by elephants. They are also vegetarians.

Rhinoceros bred at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage in Nairobi
Rhinoceros bred at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage in Nairobi


Leopards like this one often spend their days resting in a treetop. We didn’t wait long enough, but they are said to suddenly pounce on their prey, which can include baboons as well as birds and insects. Leopards are most active at night. Like domestic cats, they are excellent groomers, keeping themselves immaculately clean.

Leopard in a treetop in the Masi Mara
Leopard in a treetop at the Masi Mara

N.B. Our trained Micato guides were wonderful in providing information about the Big Five and patiently helping us spot them. After we returned home, the just published DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Kenya was an excellent resource to learn additional information about these animals, their breeding, and habitats.


Micato Safaris


*This post is part of a blog hop sponsored by Liz at Travel Writer Rants and Raves.

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  1. How thrilling! Your adventures are making me want to go. I can’t imagine seeing these fabulous animals up close and in person. What an amazing experience.

  2. Thanks for sharing! If I ever have the opportunity and means for a safari I know I will jump on it. I’m not too interested in travelling anymore – so much to see and appreciate here in the good ole US – yet Africa and Tuscany still call to me. You rekindled my desire.

  3. Sounds like an amazing trip. I would never go on a safari. I realize it is not dangerous, but I prefer to stay closer to a bathroom and civilization. We have some amazing photos my grandfather took in India, not Africa, in 1900 or so, of a safari he went on escorting a Grand Duke.

    1. It was a bit intimidating to me, too, but if you research your tour operator it helps allay a great deal of anxiety. Micato was terrific in making sure we were safe and well taken care of~

  4. How incredibly fun! I’ve never been a big fan of hunting, so a photo safari is right up my alley, and how lucky that you got to spot them all! Sounds like a really incredible trip!

  5. Great photos, Irene. I feel like that leopard is looking right at me! Could that baby elephant be any cuter? Very sad that they are sought and killed by poachers.

  6. I absolutely love when travel bloggers put up posts about photo safari’s in Africa! I’m a huge, huge fan of all the cats….lions, leopards and more than anything…cheetahs! Thank you for sharing! I subscribed to your site 🙂

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